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Federal EHR compare program finalizes reporting criteria – Modern Healthcare

Electronic health record vendors on Tuesday got their first look at the questionnaire users will use to evaluate their software products for an HHS comparison program.

As part of a voluntary survey, clinicians, pharmacists and hospital information technology staff can answer 28 questions evaluating EHR products for an HHS program that will compare the software systems. The questionnaire asks users to evaluate the EHR systems’ interoperability, usability, privacy and other factors.

The Urban Institute, which HHS contracted with to create the EHR reporting program, released the final version of the questionnaire Tuesday. The survey is one of two parts of the overall program, which was established by the 21st Century Cures Act to make data about EHRs publicly available.

The institute said it developed the questions based on input from clinicians, medical societies, software developers, payers and others collected between 2018 and 2020. In 2018, many healthcare groups stressed to HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology the need for cost transparency, particularly for software implementations and ongoing maintenance.

The Urban Institute tackled that with four questions on cost, including a new question added to the final questionnaire that asks users how the final cost of an EHR implementation and maintenance compared to initial estimates supplied by the vendor.

ONC hasn’t shared plans for how the end-user questionnaire will be distributed.

ONC could encourage participation in the voluntary questionnaire through its website, emails and events, the Urban Institute noted. Healthcare groups have also suggested reaching EHR users by collaborating with trade groups, incorporating responses into existing Medicare attestation programs and providing financial incentives, according to the Urban Institute.

The Urban Institute in June published a draft of the questionnaire. The revised version incorporates feedback from 31 EHR users, trade groups and companies who responded to ONC and the Urban Institute’s call for public comment this summer.

Under the 21st Century Cures Act, HHS is required to collect data on health IT software certified by the agency.

The ultimate goal of the EHR reporting program is to publicly release interoperability, usability and other data from software users and developers, so that users can compare products before purchasing them. ONC in 2018 tapped economic and social policy research think tank Urban Institute and consulting firm HealthTech Solutions to develop the program.

In addition to voluntary reports from product users, the EHR reporting program will also require product developers to submit information about their software. The Urban Institute said it plans to release a draft of the criteria that product developers would report on in 2021, as that questionnaire is still being developed.